PARCC exam to replace ISAT and PSAE

By Krzysztof Chwala

Staff Writer

Freshman Delaney Halloran sat in the computer lab filled with classmates on April 1. Some sat at computers while others like Halloran sat with iPads, but they all did one thing: take a test.

According to Halloran, the testing experience was very different than standardized tests she has taken in the past.

“It was really uncomfortable,” Halloran said. “There’s something nice about having paper. You can underline and highlight. On the iPad, you can’t do any of that.”

The test was a pilot of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers exam (PARCC). The developing test is said to measure college and career readiness. It is set to be administered next year in 17 states, 14 of which piloted the test this spring. As of April 11, 403,000 pilot tests were taken. More than 66,000 of the tests were taken in Illinois.

When Halloran could not advance to the next portion of her test, five teachers suddenly huddled around the her trying to fix the problem.

For Prospect, this was the first time that students took a standardized test digitally, so running into such nuances was expected.

“Taking tests on computers is the wave of the future,” Assessment Center supervisor Janice Sokolik said.

According to Sokolik, digital testing is something very new.

During the 2014-15 school year and afterwards, the PARCC will be administered twice to all freshmen, sophomores and juniors.  A performance-based assessment (PBA) will be administered after 75 percent of the school year has passed, and an end-of year assessment (EOY) after 90 percent.

During the 2014-15 school year, the PBA will be between March 9 and April 3. The EOY assessment will be between April 27 and May 22. This coincides with AP testing, which will occur between May 4–15.

“Putting that much stress on kids never ends well,” freshman Cori Wims said. “That’s why kids snap and freak out.”

Furthermore, each test will be 9.5 hours long.

“You can tell me to sit in a room for 10 hours and read. I will do that,” Wims said. “I would much rather do that than sit there and take a test that has an essay every 10 questions.”

Nevertheless, Wims and her classmate, freshman James Estrella, say that the test was not all that bad.

According to Estrella, he had to read 30-40 paragraph long passages and then answer about 10 questions. These questions also had follow-up questions about the answer to the previous question.

For example, Estrella mentions reading an excerpt of Rapunzel and being asked what the stepmother did during the story. He was then asked about the motives behind her actions.

“It’s not a fun test, but it’s basically just a test,” Wims said. “There was nothing special.”

She compares the test to the ISATs, the Illinois Standard Achievement Test given from third to eighth grade, but with many more essays – three in total.

The PARCC exam also shares similarities with the ACT. Both are designed to meet college and career readiness standards. While they both test for essentially the same thing, the format of the tests looks very different.

The ACT math section is purely multiple-choice, so there is a possibility of students answering correctly by guessing. The PARCC, on the other hand, requires students to come up with their own answers and also support them with reasoning and work.

The average lexile score, a measurement of the difficulty of a reading, of reading passages on the ACT is around 1,100 out of 1,800. The average score of passages on the PARCC is around 1,400, a score that exceeds high school standards, which are currently between 1,070 and 1,200.

The PARCC is pushing to have its exams recognized by higher education institutions and has stated that that is its first priority.

“Colleges accept the ACT, SAT or both, and now higher education will need to evaluate and decide the PARCC assessment for college entrance,” Sokolik said. “This will take some time.”


All incoming freshman, sophomores and juniors will be taking the PARCC exam starting in 2014. The test will be given twice to all students – once in March, and once in May. The exam in May also coincides with AP testing.


The PARCC exam will be a total of 9.5 hours long. This includes three English sections, and two Math sections. For comparison, the English, Mathematics, Reading and Science section of the ACT average about five hours.


The PARCC exam opts to be a digital test. While paper tests will still be available for an additional cost of $4, there is a much stronger emphasis on taking the test via computer or iPad.